Christopher Dresser: art director Linthorpe Pottery
In 1879 John Harrison (a local businessman) established Linthorpe Pottery in conjunction with Christopher Dresser, one of the most influential designers of the late 19th century. Dresser acted as artistic director at the Pottery until 1982 and continued to submit designs whilst the Pottery remained in production. By 1885 it was the largest pottery in the locality, employing between 80 to 100 people. The Pottery was opened on the site occupied by the Sun Brick Works in Linthorpe Village, Teesside – on land owned by John Harrison.
Dresser’s intention was that the pottery should produce ware not previously attempted in Europe and at the same time alleviate local unemployment. Local clay was employed at the start of the pottery – the same clay as was used in brick making. The first firing took place in the early autumn of 1879, overseen by the kiln-manager at the then established Stockton Pottery. Results were good prompting John Harrison to build a pottery works – including the first gas fired kilns in Britain.
Dresser recommended Henry Tooth, an artist from Buckinghamshire working at that time on the Isle of Wight, as pottery manager. Henry Tooth, with no prior experience of clay or pottery left Ryde for Linthorpe, spending time at the T.G. Green pottery in Church Gresley, Derbyshire to get a foundation in ceramics. Henry Tooth had brought Richard Patey with him from the Isle of Wight, who managed the pottery after he left in 1882 (to establish to Bretby Pottery in partnership with William Ault).
In addition to Dresser’s innovative designs, Tooth and Patey experimented with different firing and glazing techniques. Linthorpe Pottery became noted for the boldness of colour and high glaze. It received worldwide attention following the London International Exhibition of 1885 where Princess Alexandra of Wales purchased an example. The pottery secured a medal, and more prizes were won at New Orleans and Calcutta.
However, success was short-lived and the pottery closed after John Harrison’s bankruptcy following the failure of another of his companies. Production at the Linthorpe Pottery ceased in 1889.